Kentucky Wildcats (25-1 SU, 13-11 ATS) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (20-5 SU, 13-10 ATS), 6:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, February 20, 2010, Memorial Gym, Nashville, Tenn. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Kentucky +1/Vanderbilt -1
The SEC regular season title is on the line on Saturday in Nashville, as Vanderbilt hosts Kentucky.
Kentucky is currently going through its toughest three-game stretch of the season, and the ‘Cats have passed the first two steps of those three games. They won 73-62 at home over Tennessee and then survived in overtime on Tuesday at Mississippi State. The ‘Cats have just one loss for the season, a 68-62 loss at South Carolina on January 26. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are currently playing incredible basketball and it’s difficult to fathom that both of them are still freshmen. A win on Saturday at Vanderbilt all but racks up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the ‘Cats.
Vanderbilt is undefeated at home this season and has just two losses since December 11, at Kentucky and at Georgia. A win over Kentucky would put the Commodores in line for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. After losing two of three games a couple weeks ago, the Commodores have now won three in a row.
Vanderbilt is coming off an 82-78 win at Ole Miss on Thursday. It gives the Commodores yet another impressive road win to go along with their previous wins at St. Mary’s and Tennessee. A.J. Ogilvy made his presence known down low with 27 points and eight rebounds. Jeffery Taylor, who has been solid all year long, had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists. Point guard Jermaine Beal shot just 2-of-9 from the field and scored 14 points. The Commodores shot 47 percent from the field and 4-for-13 from 3-point range and they out-rebounded Ole Miss by six. They won the game at the free throw line, where they had 34 attempts (made 28 of them), almost double (18) Ole Miss’s attempts. Earlier in the season, the Commodores may have settled for many more outside shots, but now they are playing better because they are driving to the basket and using their size and athleticism to get baskets inside. Even with Ole Miss shooting 48 percent from the field and 8-for-18 from beyond the arc, Vandy still won the game because of its toughness and physicality to get easy points at the charity stripe.
Kentucky had one of its toughest tests of the season on Tuesday, winning the game 81-75 in overtime at Mississippi State. It was a close battle throughout and it looked like the Bulldogs would pull it out at the end of regulation, but Kentucky stepped up defensively. DeAndre Liggins hit a clutch 3-pointer, Cousins blocked Romero Osby on a drive to the basket, and Patrick Patterson tied the game with a layup to force overtime. Jarvis Varnado fouled out with five minutes left in the game for Mississippi State, and Cousins and the ‘Cats took advantage. They finished with 12 blocks and a 49-29 rebounding advantage. The ‘Cats only shot 4-of-24 on 3-pointers and a mediocre 42 percent from the field, but they won the game down low and with defense. They shot 21-of-31 at the free throw line. Cousins had 19 points and 14 rebounds, Patterson had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Wall had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. The ‘Cats only forced nine turnovers, but they held the Bulldogs to 39 percent shooting overall and 10-for-35 from 3-point range.
Vanderbilt is getting out-rebounded by about two boards per game in conference play, while Kentucky is almost +7 on the boards in the SEC, so the Commodores will have to really box out and crash the boards to stop Cousins and Patterson from dominating on the glass. Vanderbilt is shooting 38 percent on 3-pointers in conference play but also allowing SEC opponents to shoot 38 percent on 3-pointers. Kentucky is shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc in conference play and holding opponents to a shade under 30 percent. That could be the difference in the game - whether or not Beal, John Jenkins and Brad Tinsley can get hot from downtown for Vandy and whether or not Kentucky can prevent them from getting good looks.
Kentucky is 6-2 ATS in its last eight road games, but 1-5 ATS in its last six games following an ATS win. Kentucky is 4-0 ATS in its last four Saturday games, while Vandy is 0-4 ATS in its last four Saturday games. The over is 4-1 in the last five meetings between these teams at Vanderbilt. The home team is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings between these teams, the favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings, and Kentucky is 11-5 ATS in the last 16 meetings.
Ryno’s Pick: Vanderbilt wins and covers!